If you’re looking for someone who has dedicated her life to pursuing important causes and breaking glass ceilings, invested her time, entrepreneurial spirit, and millions of dollars into business ventures, then I present to you, Sheila Johnson.
Born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania in 1949, 72-year-old Sheila Johnson is a businesswoman, CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, Vice Chairman, Monumental Sports, and Entertainment, Co-founder of BET Television, and the first black woman to reach a net worth of a billion dollars.
Despite not having formal training in business, she has managed to amass a remarkable resume while achieving groundbreaking feats in the industry.
Sheila Johnson had her high school education in Proviso High School, where she fell in love with music and became a concert violinist. She went further to obtain a B.A. degree in music from the University of Illinois.
With a passion for giving voices to the black audience, Sheila co-founded BET (Black Entertainment Television) with her now ex-husband Rob Johnson in 1979 and was the vice president of corporate affairs.
The cable TV delivered programs that addressed specific interests, challenges, and needs of the African American audience. A classic example of the programming they delivered was Teen Summit—a program that sought to provide a safe haven where they can talk about and deal with everyday issues that affect teenagers.
After about two decades of service and management, Sheila and Johnson sold BET to Viacom for $3 billion. After BET, she focused her entrepreneurial spirit on investing in real estate, horses, and hotels. She founded Salamander Hotel and Resorts in 2005—a group of luxury hotels that are currently elevating the standards in the hospitality industry.
Sheila is also a part-owner of three professional sports franchises—the Washington Mystics (WNBA), the Washington Capitals(NHL), and the Washington Wizards (NBA)—making her the first and only black woman to own stakes in three professional teams. In addition to these, she has served as a global ambassador of agencies and member of councils that sought to serve underserved black communities.
Top 15 Quotes By Sheila Johnson
- Surround yourself with people who have a vision and not their own agenda
- You have to diversify to grow. I’m not afraid to take risks and falls
- Don’t rest on your laurels. There’s always someone going to be behind you who’s going to be better than you; so, you need to get out there and keep working.
- You can do anything you put your mind to. When people say no to me, I say, ‘Don’t say no to me. There is a way we can work this out’.
- Money doesn’t fall out of the sky. We had a business plan, an extraordinary proposal, and the right timing. I want to make sure that anyone who aspires to my kind of wealth understands what it took to get there.
- One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is that it’s okay to fail.
- In my journey of getting to this point, I’ve been really learning how to trust my instincts and also to make sure I don’t bring the wrong people into my environment—because, more than anything, that can really stifle your journey on the road to success.
- Don’t ever lose sight of who you are and your own power.
- If we’re going to improve the lives of women around the world—and I believe we must—then, we have to stretch beyond ourselves. We have to challenge ourselves and we have to challenge others.
- You learn a lot from failure. It makes you a lot smarter and a lot tougher.
- If you can’t afford to go to college, try either a community college or a vocational school. Start building a business from there.
- For me, winning is not about getting beyond the baseline yourself. It’s about getting there as well.
- There are several people out there who don’t take women seriously. You have to be firm and let them know that you have power. You have to empower yourself.
- You can change minds with loving-kindness.
- There is no such thing as overnight success. You need a plan; you need to time things right and you need to persuade people to invest in you.